Analysis

Son shoots elderly father in the head after he was denied assisted suicide

assisted suicide

A man who shot his father will not serve any jail time after a judge ruled that the murder was an act of “love.” Glenn Stratton, of Castlemaine, Victoria, in Australia claimed his father, Colin Stratton, asked to be killed after his request for assisted suicide was denied.

81-year-old Colin had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, and already supported assisted suicide after his wife needed intensive care following a stroke. He felt like he wanted to die on his own terms, his general practitioner told the court, but there would be a wait for him to receive the suicide pill. He tried to buy one online, but the Victorian Supreme Court was told that it ended up being a scam.

“My whole body’s given up,” he said, according to the Herald Sun. His daughter said he couldn’t feel anything in his feet and fingers anymore, and had lost his sense of taste. The problem, however, is that Colin wasn’t yet in the “end stage” of his disease, so it was against the law for his doctor to give him the fatal pills.

It was then that Colin turned to his son, Glenn.

READ: Grandmother kills autistic grandson because she felt no one would care for him after her death

According to Glenn, Colin said, “I’m in pain, I need your help,” before directing him to a pump action .22 gauge rifle he had gifted his son when he was a teenager, and asked him to shoot him in the head. At first, Glenn said he refused, but his father refused to back down, so Glenn ultimately agreed, saying they said they loved each other as Glenn held the rifle to Colin’s head and pulled the trigger.

But rather than seeing Glenn’s actions as inexcusable, the judge viewed them as loving. “The psychological pressure on you must have been enormous,” Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said during court. “You finally pulled the trigger spontaneously out of love and respect for his wishes.”

Glenn was originally charged with murder, and spent 46 days in prison. While Hollingworth upheld the murder charge, she refused to make him go to prison again. “You tried to dissuade your father but you knew he would follow through,” she continued. “Justice should be tempered by mercy. There is no interest to the community in sending you to prison.”

Yet not everyone in the Stratton family is at peace with Colin’s violent death, even though they view Glenn as a “hero.”

“My father … was the benchmark for which I judge all men,” Searle Stratton, Glenn’s brother, told the court. “He was everything I envisioned a real man to be. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been cheated. The greatest man I’ve ever known has been taken from me. The few things that console me, that ease the pain inside, is knowing my father is no longer in pain, that he and my mother are now together once more, and that my new hero is now my brother, for sacrificing his own freedom in the greatest act of love one can commit.”

Though some have taken Stratton’s death as an excuse to make Victoria’s assisted suicide laws less restrictive, what has actually been revealed is widespread ableism and ageism. Had Stratton been young and able-bodied, with a family member helping him to commit suicide, it would have been seen as what it is: an inexcusable way to help someone kill themselves, when what they should have done was get them help.

Instead, because Stratton was elderly and ill, a judge saw it as an act of “love” to help him to end his life.

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